First, I'd like to thank Instructables for running this contest: without it, the reindeer moss I picked up because it looked like miniature trees would never have connected in my mind with the idea of putting that awesome-diorama-I-would-one-day-make into an emu egg and getting to work on it immediately. Whatever the proportion of inspiration to perspiration there has to be for a given project, without the inspiration there really is no project, no matter how much perspiration one is willing to put in.
Other things needed for this project:
Emu egg (preferably more than one... I ruined the first and maybe the second)
White vinegar (fresh from the store: the newer it is, the more acidic)
Crayons (good ole Crayola)
Rock mold (this came in a diorama rock kit I bought at Michaels for this, but can be had online)
Talus (i.e. little jagged rock crumbs. Unpainted aquarium gravel could do in a pinch)
Gravel (i.e. larger jagged pieces of rock. Jagged is the key word here)
Putty (I used Aves Apoxie Sculpt, but any self-hardening putty-like stuff would do, so long as it sticks well to things)
Reindeer moss (I've seen the same stuff labeled as lichen)
Grass flock (came in another diorama kit, this one for grasses. Can also be had online or in a hobby store)
Foliage fiber (same diorama kit, the stuff looks and feels vaguely like the scrubby side of a kitchen sponge)
Glue (I used what came free with the kits, it smells like Elmer's to me. Any non-toxic, clear drying glue would do)
Clear casting resin
Very small twig wreath, or twigs and raffia to make one.
Plastic cups, knives, stirrers.
Brushes (here it really helps to have a few small and soft brushes, they are best for blending)
Rotary tool with a grinding tip and a small cutting tip.
Also, lots of time, patience, and a clean, well lit work environment (I used my office for a chunk of this project)
Step 1: Etch the Eggshell
Right away I figured I would need more room for my diorama than a chicken egg. My first thought was an ostrich egg. I went to google images and started looking at what other people have done with them. Then I saw a picture of a large dark green egg, and knew I had to have one. With a little research, I found out that the awesome green eggs were laid by emus, but apparently, they were even MORE awesome than just giant green eggs: it turned out that beneath the dark green layer hid a light teal layer, and beneath that a white layer. That pretty much decided for me just what I was going to do with the egg.
I got four of them on ebay, figuring that, since I haven't done any eggshell crafts since elementary school, and might ruin a few shells before I got one right. I won't go over all of the experiments that finally led me to choose to etch my egg in vinegar, and use a crayon for a resist.
So I got out a crayon and drew the pattern I wanted on the shell: something between irregular spots and what cells look like under a microscope. When I got done drawing, I went over the lines again, really grinding the crayon in, trying to make sure there was a thick and even layer of wax everywhere I didn't want the vinegar to touch.
Then I went to the store and bought a bottle of white vinegar. I once read that vinegar becomes less acidic the longer it's stored, so, even though I realized that what's on the store shelves may have been sitting there for a good year, I KNEW that what was under my sink has been sitting there for at least two, in addition to the time it spent in the store. So fresher was definitely better.
I then used some Apoxie clay to seal the little hole on the bottom though which the egg was sucked out prior to getting to me, put it in as narrow a container as I could find and still fit the egg inside, poured in the vinegar, covered it with plastic wrap, and weighed it down with a handy bottle of liquid soap. About two hours later, I pulled it out, and scrubbed it with a dish sponge under hot water, so the places where the vinegar has been eating away at the shell (and which became soft and slimy to the touch) got scrubbed away to a nice teal.
Now, before I used a crayon for a resist, I looked around for ways to remove it from the shell once I didn't need it (and since I figured the rough texture of the shell might make it difficult to remove ALL the crayon, I used a low-contrasting color). After trying several remedies, it turned out WD40 was the best, and got most of the crayon off.
Upon closer inspection, it looked like some of the spots got etched much better than others. My only guess as to why that happened was that maybe that side was in contact with the plastic wrap covering the container. Whatever the cause, the darker spots were almost blending in, and that was unacceptable, so I got out my trusty dremel, stuck in a cone-shaped grinding tip, and cleaned those spots up. Unfortunately it turned out that while the vinegar ate away at the surface at the same rate everywhere, basically preserving the original texture of the egg (which I really liked), the grinding tip was doing a much smoother job. So I cleaned up as few spots as possible as lightly as possible and let it go at that.
Once I was satisfied that the shell was done, I used the grinding tip to grind a deep groove where I wanted the finished hole to be (to minimize slip-ups when I started cutting), swapped out the tip for a carving/cutting tip with a tiny head, and cut out the hole. I would just like to say that those craftsmen who use rotary tools to do the entire design are real heroes, because grinding at that egg, and especially cutting though it, sounded and smelled just like having your teeth drilled at the dentist's, so by the time I was done, my teeth hurt, and I was breaking into cold sweat.